Thursday, January 12, 2012

Organizing a Thousand Story Ideas

I already loved Orson Scott Card for writing Ender's Game,
a sci-fi novel that I absolutely adore. Then I found this quote from him:
“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any.”
-- Orson Scott Card
I find story ideas everywhere, most notably in my dreams. I keep several notepads in my nightstand for receiving my barely awake scribbles. Looking at them again once I’m lucid is always a trip. " 'Sharon Stone elephant angel race' - What could I have possibly meant by that?"

I’ll write notes on the back of receipts in my bag, scrawl thoughts in my day planner, or beat out ideas in the margins of the script I’m supposed to be working on. I considered hanging a bulletin board in my room and tacking up all these scraps, but they started to grow exponentially in numbers and I realized the sight of them on the board would overwhelm more than it would inspire.

So how do I organize them all?

I store them into my computer. I have different Word files for each writing medium – TV, film, short film, short story, etc. Each file starts with a one-column table. I type one idea into each row, often with additional thoughts that came out while typing.

I prefer writing by hand when it comes to the initial brainstorm phase, but there’s something about putting all my thoughts in the same font in one document that allows me to look at them all with fresh judgment the next time I go looking for an idea.

How do you organize your writing brainstorming?


  1. I love Scrivener for this. Regardless of the idea, it lets you write them down and organize them later. It even has a post it note view. You can shuffle, mix and max as things come together.

  2. Ooo, I'll look into Scrivener - thanks Cindy!

  3. You are welcome.

    Shameful for me to mention it and not provide more direct information.
    It's cheap and easy to get going. It has screenplay templates and will export to Final Draft for that last bit of official formatting.

    No...I don't work for them. I like things that work and this program just works regardless of your writing objective. :)